Beyond constructivism: navigationism in
the knowledge era
Tom H. Brown
Tom H. Brown is based in
the Department of
Telematic Learning &
Education Innovation,
University of Pretoria,
Pretoria, South Africa
Purpose – This paper seeks to discuss past and present paradigm shifts in education and then to
explore possible future learning paradigms in the light of the knowledge explosion in the knowledge era
that is currently being entered.
Design/methodology/approach – New learning paradigms and paradigm shifts are explored.
Findings – Learning processes and learning paradigms are still very much founded in a content-driven
and knowledge production paradigm. The rapid developments in information and communication
technologies already have and will continue to have a profound impact on information processing,
knowledge production and learning paradigms. One needs to acknowledge the increasing role and
impact of technology on education and training. One has already experienced enormous challenges in
coping with the current overflow of available information. It is difficult to imagine what it will be like when
the knowledge economy is in its prime.
Practical implications – Institutions should move away from providing content per se to learners. It is
necessary to focus on how to enable learners to find, identify, manipulate and evaluate information and
knowledge, to integrate this knowledge in their world of work and life, to solve problems and to
communicate this knowledge to others. Teachers and trainers should become coaches and mentors
within the knowledge era – the source of how to navigate in the ocean of available information and
knowledge – and learners should acquire navigating skills for a navigationist learning paradigm.
Originality/value – This paper stimulates out-of-the-box thinking about current learning paradigms and
educational and training practices. It provides a basis to identify the impact of the new knowledge
economy on the way one deals with information and knowledge and how one deals with learning content
and content production. It emphasizes that the focus should not be on the creation of knowledge per se,
but on how to navigate in the ocean of available knowledge and information. It urges readers to
anticipate the on future and to explore alternative and appropriate learning paradigms.
Keywords Learning, Knowledge management
Paper type Conceptual paper
Educational practice is continually subjected to renewal, due mainly to developments in
information and communication technology (ICT), the commercialization and globalization of
education, social changes and the pursuit of quality. Of these, the impact of ICT and the new
knowledge economy are the most significant.
Changes in our educational environment lead, in turn, to changes in our approaches to
teaching and learning. These changes also impact on our teaching and learning paradigms.
Currently, as over the past few decades, we teach and learn in a constructivist learning
This article discusses past and present paradigm shifts in education and then explores
possible future learning paradigms in the light of the knowledge explosion in the knowledge
era that we are currently entering.
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VOL. 14 NO. 3 2006, pp. 108-120, Q Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1074-8121
DOI 10.1108/10748120610690681
The impact of ICT on education
The electronic information revolution currently being experienced internationally can be
compared to and reveals the same characteristics as the first information revolution started
by Gutenberg’s printing press. This implies that, just as present-day society accepts the
printing industry as a given and printed materials form an integral part of our daily existence,
electronic material will go the same route: Possibly in a drastically shorter period than in the
case of printed material.
We should acknowledge the increasing role and function of technology in the education
environment. Langlois (in Collis, 1999, p. 374) makes the following statement:New
information technologies, and particularly the Internet, are dramatically transforming access
to information, are changing the learning and research process, how we search, discover,
teach and learn . . .Restak (2003, p. 57) points out that, within the modern age, we must be
able to rapidly process information, function amidst chaotic surroundings, always remain
prepared to shift rapidly from one activity to another and redirect attention between
competing tasks without losing time.
Currently, as over the past few decades, the majority of our teaching and learning is based
upon a constructivist learning paradigm. However, due to the impact of ICT on education,
there are a number of issues to interrogate: How will ICT developments impact our
educational practice? Will we experience a drastic change in teaching and learning
strategies? Will we adopt a new learning paradigm in the next decade or two?
These questions lead us to explore new learning paradigms. But before we continue with the
exploration, let us look back over recent past decades and review the paradigm shifts we
have already experienced.
Paradigm shifts in education over recent decades
At this stage, it is useful to indicate that the term education be seen as the macro term which
includes the concepts teaching and learning (education ¼ teaching þ learning).
The most prominent paradigm shifts that we experienced in education during the 20th
century are discussed briefly.
Reproductive learning vs productive learning
Learners’ achievements were measured against their ability to reproduce subject content in other words, how well they could memorize and reproduce the content that the teacher
‘‘transferred’’ to them. With the emphasis on productive learning, it is rather about the
application of knowledge and skills, in other words, what the learners can do after
completing the learning process. Achievement is measured against the productive
contribution a learner can make, instead of what the learner can reproduce.
Behaviourism vs constructivism
According to a behavioristic view of learning, a learning result is indicated by a change in the
behavior of a learner (Skinner, 1938; Venezky and Osin, 1991). According to a constructivist
view, learning is seen as the individualized construction of meanings by the learner
(Cunningham, 1991; Duffy and Jonassen, 1991). Neither of these views can be regarded as
exclusively right or wrong. It is, however, necessary to know that constructivism is presently
accepted as the more relevant of the two and that education policies, education models and
education practices focus on constructivism.
Teacher-centered vs learner-centered
In the past, education activities focused on the strong points, preferences and teaching style
of the teacher. That which would work best for the teacher, determined the design of the
learning environment and the nature of activities. Teacher-centeredness is also
characterized by a view that the teacher is the primary source of knowledge for learners.
In a learner-centered environment, the focus is on the strong points, preferences and
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learning style(s) of the learner(s). The learning environment is designed according to the
needs and capabilities of the particular learner group.
A further distinction between teacher-centeredness and learner-centeredness lies in the
responsibility accepted for the learner’s learning process and learning achievement. In a
teacher-centered paradigm the teacher accepts this responsibility. Opposed to that, in a
learner-centered education paradigm, the learner accepts the full responsibility for his/her
own learning. It is for this reason that self-directed learning plays such an important role in
effective learner- centered education systems. Note however, that this does not mean that
the teacher or educational institution has no responsibility. The focus shifts towards the
instructional design of a conducive learning environment, in which effective learning can
take place.
Teaching-centered vs learning-centered
Education activities in the past were planned and executed from a teaching perspective. A
teacher would plan a teaching session (lecture) based on what the best teaching methods
would be to transfer the relevant subject content to the learners. The focus was on how to
teach. In the new paradigm, education activities are planned and executed from a learning
perspective. The emphasis is now on the learning activity and learning process of the
learner. So the focus is on how the learning, which should take place, can be optimized. ‘‘In
general, there must be a conversion from a teaching to a learning culture.’’ (Arnold in Peters,
Teaching vs learning facilitation
Teaching or instruction, as an activity of the teacher, is seen as an activity that relates to the
‘‘transfer of content’’ (an objectivist view) within a teaching-centered education paradigm.
The presentation/delivery of a lecture or paper falls into this category. The principle of
learning facilitation follows a learning-centered education paradigm. Learning facilitation
has to do with strategies and activities that focus on optimizing the learner’s learning
process. Just as the term indicates, the emphasis is on the facilitation of learning.
Teachers cannot be regarded as the only source of knowledge and cannot focus on the
traditional ‘‘transfer of content’’ any longer. They need to focus on the facilitation of learning.
‘‘Instructional staff no longer are the fountainhead of information since the technology can
provide students with access to an infinite amount of and array of data and information. The
role of the instructor, therefore, changes to one of learning facilitator. The instructor assists
students to access information, to synthesize and interpret it and to place it in a context – in
short to transform information into knowledge.’’ (Kershaw & Safford, 1998, p. 294)
Content-based vs outcomes-based
A content-driven approach to education is characterized by curriculation and education
activities that focus on subject content. The emphasis is on the content that learners should
master and a learner receives a qualification based on the nature, amount and level
(difficulty) of subject content he/she has mastered. In contrast, an outcomes-based
approach to education focuses on the learning outcomes to be reached by the learners. A
typical process for curriculation in an outcomes-based model is characterized by the
formulation and selection of learning outcomes that a learner should reach - that which the
learner must be able to do on completion of the learning process. The selection of subject
content is based on the relevance thereof to enable the learner to reach the learning
Content-based evaluation vs outcomes-based assessment
Content-based evaluation follows a reproductive view of learning where a learner’s
achievement is measured by the quantity and quality of content that is reproduced. On the
contrary, outcomes-based assessment refers to a productive view of learning where a
learner’s achievement is measured by the level and extent to which learning outcomes are
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Recent developments and trends
Some of the more recent developments and trends that have emerged are outlined below.
From constructivism to social constructivism
Constructivist approaches are now also growing to include social constructivism.
Communities of Practice (COPs) are evolving and beginning to play a significant role in
teaching and learning environments. The focus is on the effective and productive use of
existing, social and natural resources for learning. The real expert is not the teacher, or any
other person for that matter, but the community of practice.
Constructivism refers to learning as the construction of new meanings (knowledge) by the
learner him/herself. Social constructivism refers to learning as the result of active
participation in a ‘‘community’’ where new meanings are co-constructed by the learner and
his/her ‘‘community’’ and knowledge is the result of consensus (Gruender, 1996; Savery and
Duffy, 1995).
From knowledge production to knowledge configuration
Because of the development in the field of ICT, increasing amounts of information are
available and accessible for many people in all parts of the world. The days when knowledge
and information were limited to libraries, books and experts, are over. Knowledge production
is making room for so-called knowledge configuration.
Gibbons (1998, p. i) expresses it as follows: ‘‘Universities have been far more adept at
producing knowledge than at drawing creatively (re-configuring) knowledge that is being
produced in the distributed knowledge production system. It remains an open question at
this time whether they can make the necessary institutional adjustments to become as
competent in the latter as they have been in the former.’’
Educational institutions should develop the necessary competent human resources in order
to conduct and manage knowledge configuration effectively. ‘‘This requires the creation of a
cadre of knowledge workers – people who are expert at configuring knowledge relevant to a
wide range of contexts. This new corps of workers is described in the text as problem
identifiers, problem solvers, and problem brokers.’’ Gibbons (1998, p. i)
Where educational institutions greatly emphasized the generation of content for learning
programs in the past, the evaluation, storage and re-use of content will become more
important. The generation of certain content might possibly not even happen at or through
the institution itself, but elsewhere. The educational institution could possibly, in such a case,
give attention to the evaluation, processing and packaging of the content. ‘‘Over 90 percent
of the knowledge produced globally is not produced where its use is required. The challenge
is how to get knowledge that may have been produced anywhere in the world to the place
where it can be used effectively in a particularly problem-solving context.’’ (Gibbons, 1998:i)
From knowledge management towards sense making
An emerging paradigm shift within management and information sciences suggests that the
focus should in future shift from knowledge management to sense making. Snowden (2005)
describes sense making as:. . .the way that humans choose between multiple possible
explanations of sensory and other input as they seek to conform the phenomenological with
the real in order to act in such a way as to determine or respond to the world around them.He
then continues to say that it is about ensuring cognitive effectiveness in information
processing in order to gain a cognitive edge or advantage. This trend makes a lot of sense
when we think about the difficulties we all experience in our daily work and life due to the
abundance of information and interaction that requires us to apply new skills in order to
manage our environments meaningfully.
All these paradigm shifts have contributed to the ever-growing need to innovate our
educational practice and to explore new learning paradigms. Cognisance needs to be taken
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of the fact that ICT developments are impacting educational practice and that we will, in the
near future, experience shifts in learning paradigms.
Exploring and anticipating future learning paradigms
Learning paradigms are already starting to shift beyond the changes experienced in the
20th century in terms of the role of teaching and learning. While the role of the teacher first
shifted from ‘‘teaching’’ to ‘‘learning facilitation’’, the latest shift is towards ‘‘facilitated and
supported enquiry’’. Soloway (2003), for example, argues that inquiry into authentic
questions generated from student experiences is now the central strategy for teaching.
The following is a summary of relevant highlights taken from the European Union’s aims for
2010 (Oliveira, 2003):
We should experience a shift from PC centeredness to ambient intelligence. The ICT
environment should become personalized for all users. The surrounding environment
should be the interface and technology should be almost invisible. There should be
infinite bandwidth and full multimedia, with an almost 100 percent online community.
Innovations in learning that we should expect are focused on personalized and adaptive
learning, dynamic mentoring systems and integrating experienced based learning into
the classroom. Research should be done on new methods and new approaches to
learning with ICT.
Learning resources should be digital and adaptable to individual needs and preferences.
E-learning platforms should support collaborative learning. There should be a shift from
courseware to performanceware focused on professional learning for work.
ICTs should not be an add-on but an integrated part of the learning process. Access to
mobile learning should be enhanced through mobile interfaces.
These highlights from the EU’s bold but realistic (in first world terms) aims for 2010 provide a
couple of indicators for the near future.
The knowledge economy and the accompanying commoditization of knowledge and
available information, have prompted a further step in the process. Nyiri (2002:2) quotes
Marshall McLuhan:
The sheer quantity of information conveyed by press-magazines-film-TV-radio far exceeds the
quantity of information conveyed by school instruction and texts.
This observation does not even mention the magnitude of information freely available on the
Internet. Therefore contemporary educational paradigms focus not only on the production of
knowledge, but are beginning to focus more and more on the effective
application/integration/manipulation/etc. of existing information and knowledge.
A new type of literacy is also emerging, namely information navigation. Brown (1999, p. 6)
describes this as follows:
I believe that the real literacy of tomorrow will have more to do with being able to be your own
private, personal reference librarian, one that knows how to navigate through the incredible,
confusing, complex information spaces and feel comfortable and located in doing that. So
navigation will be a new form of literacy if not the main form of literacy for the 21st century.
According to Gartner (2003) the new knowledge economy is merely in its emerging stages
and will only reach maturity from 2010 onwards. This is clearly indicated in Figure 1 taken
from Gartner (2003).
We have already experienced demanding challenges in coping with the current overflow of
available information. It is difficult to imagine what it will be like when the knowledge
economy is in its prime . . .
Knowledge, as codified information, is growing at a phenomenal rate. ‘‘While the world’s
codified knowledge base (i.e. all historical information in printed books and electronic files)
doubled every 30 years in the earlier part of this century, it was doubling every seven years
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Figure 1 The rise of the knowledge era (Gartner, 2003)
by the 1970s. Information library researchers say that by the year 2010, the world’s codified
knowledge will double every 11 hours.’’ (Bontis, 2002, p. 22)
Just imagine the extensive information overload we will experience in a situation where the
world’s knowledge doubles every 11 hours! Not even to think of the growth after that . . .
This future scenario will have a significant impact on information processing (including
sense making) and most definitely on our learning processes and learning paradigms that
are currently still very much founded in a content and knowledge production paradigm.
The authors of the Computing Research Association’s report ‘‘Cyber Infrastructure for
Education and Learning for the Future’’, stated that ‘‘the new methodologies of visual
analytics will be needed for the analysis of enormous, dynamic, and complex information
streams that consist of structured and unstructured text documents, measurements,
images, and video. Significant human-computer interaction research will be required to best
meet the needs of the various stakeholders.’’ (Computing Research Association, 2005, p.
So what will future learning paradigms then look like?
To answer this question, we need to explore what lies beyond constructivism.
Figure 2 summarizes the paradigm shifts we have experienced in the past and proposes a
possible paradigm shift envisaged for the future. A discussion of the paradigm shifts as
shown in Figure 2 is presented in Table I
It is worrying to observe and difficult to accept that we, as teachers and educationists, are
still continuing to work within our ‘‘content-driven’’ paradigms, providing our learners with
preselected and carefully designed and developed content. We are heading for a disaster if
we are not willing to take the leap out of this fatal paradigm.
I argue that navigationism might be the new learning paradigm that lies beyond
constructivism. In a navigationist learning paradigm, learners should be able to find, identify,
manipulate and evaluate information and knowledge, to integrate this knowledge in their
world of work and life, to solve problems and to communicate this knowledge to others.
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Figure 2 Exploring and anticipating learning paradigms beyond constructivism
Table I Discussion of the paradigm shifts as shown in Figure 2
The knowledge adoption era:
Exploring and anticipating learning paradigms beyond constructivism
The knowledge production era:
The knowledge navigation era:
During this era the emphasis was on
knowledge adoption. Learning activities
were focused on studying and memorizing.
Successful learning took place when
learners mastered the content and rote
learning was the means through which this
outcome was usually achieved. A change in
the behaviour of the learners was the aim of
this learning paradigm called behaviourism.
In this paradigm, the role of the teacher was
to teach. Teaching or instruction was the
obvious activity of the master subject expert
– the teacher – because he/she was the
source of knowledge. The teacher was the
‘‘sage on the stage’’ and the primary source
of the WHAT that was to be taught.
Knowledge creation was actually only for
the élite and it was usually accepted that the
knowledge was already there and learners
just had to gain the knowledge – thus the
focus of learning was on ‘‘gaining’’
This is the contemporary learning
paradigm where the emphasis is now on
knowledge production. Learning activities
are focused on inquiry and research.
Successful learning takes place when
learners are engaged in active learning
tasks that guide them to create their own
new meanings (knowledge). Productive
and experiential learning are the means
through which this outcome is usually
achieved. The construction of new
knowledge is the aim of this learning
paradigm called constructivism.
In this paradigm, the role of the teacher is
to facilitate the learning process. Learning
facilitation is the obvious activity of the
teacher because he/she is only one of the
sources of knowledge. The teacher is the
‘‘guide on the side’’ that allows him to be
not only one of the sources of WHAT should
be learned, but also the source of HOW to
learn. Knowledge production/creation is
the central issue of what teaching and
learning is about – thus the focus of
learning is on ‘‘creating’’/‘‘producing’’
In this new learning paradigm that we are
already rapidly moving towards, the
emphasis will be on knowledge navigation.
Learning activities are focused on
exploring, connecting, evaluating,
manipulating, integrating and navigating.
Successful learning takes place when
learners solve contextual real life problems
through active engagement in
problem-solving activities and extensive
networking, communication and
collaboration. The aim of these activities is
not to gain or create knowledge, but to
solve problems. Knowledge is, of course,
being created in the process, but
knowledge creation is not the focus of the
activities per se. Navigating skills are
required to survive in the knowledge era
learning paradigm called navigationism.
In this paradigm, the role of the teacher is
to coach the learners in HOW to navigate –
to be their mentor in the skills and
competencies required in the knowledge
era. The teacher is the ‘‘coach in touch’’
with the demands and survival skills of the
knowledge era. Knowledge navigation is
the central issue of what teaching and
learning is about – thus the focus of
learning is on ‘‘navigating’’ in the ocean of
available knowledge.
The relation between navigationism and constructivism
Constructivism has been the learning paradigm during the past few decades. And social
constructivism is in my mind an intermediate or sub-step forward towards a new learning
I am not claiming that constructivism will no longer be relevant or applicable. Navigationism
will not ‘‘replace’’ constructivism or change learning theory completely. A constructivist
learning theory will remain within the heart of our learning science, but the focus of our
learning activities will shift towards navigationism as the new learning paradigm.
In the same way, when the shift from behaviourism to constructivism took place (and is still
taking place), it never implied that behaviourism ceased to exist. Behaviourism is an
essential part of our learning theory, but it is currently not the focus of our teaching and
learning activities. While we are promoting constructivist activities with learners and
facilitating the learning process through being the ‘‘guide on the side’’, it doesn’t imply that
our learners do not have behaviourist outcomes (change in behaviour) as well. In the same
way, constructivist outcomes will remain, but our focus in the knowledge era will shift towards
navigationist outcomes.
Navigating skills required in a navigationist learning paradigm
Technological developments introduced new and alternative views about our interaction with
information and people and about the skills and competencies we require to survive in the
knowledge era. The most basic skills required are problem solving skills, ICT skills, visual
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media literacy, e-competence to function within the technological and knowledge era, as
well as psychological and emotional competence.
Adding to these basic skills, the following are some examples of the skills and competencies
required in a navigationist paradigm:
The ability – know-how and know-where – to find relevant and up-to-date information, as
well as the skills required to contribute meaningfully to the knowledge production
process. This includes the mastery of networking skills and skills required to be part of
and contribute meaningfully to communities of practice and communities of learning. This
implies that the basic communication, negotiation and social skills should be in place.
The ability to identify, analyse, synthesize and evaluate connections and patterns.
The ability to contextualize and integrate information across different forms of information.
The ability to reconfigure, re-present and communicate information.
The ability to manage information (identify, analyse, organize, classify, assess, evaluate,
The ability to distinguish between meaningful and irrelevant information for the specific
task at hand or problem to be solved.
The ability to distinguish between valid alternate views and fundamentally flawed
Sense making and chaos management.
Let us explore recent work of a few researchers in the field with a view to identify further
navigating skills.
In his paper called: ‘‘Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age’’, George Siemens
describes connectivism as: ‘‘the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and
complexity and self-organization theories.’’ (Siemens, 2004, p. 5)
This is a very useful definition to describe the complex learning environment in the
knowledge era. Analyzing the elements and principles of connectivism as described by
Siemens, we are able to identify several important skills that learners require within a
navigationist learning paradigm.
Siemens (2004, p. 5) continues with his description of connectivism by saying that the
learning process: ‘‘ . . . is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the
connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of
knowing.’’ He also states that: ‘‘connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions
are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired.
The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. The
ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made
yesterday is also critical.’’
I fully support this. What Siemens describes here are essential navigating skills for the
knowledge era.
Let us now have a look at the issue of connectedness. Diana and James Oblinger talk about
the Internet Generation as follows: ‘‘As long as they’ve been alive, the world has been a
connected place, and more than any preceding generation they have seized on the potential
of networked media.’’ While highly mobile, moving from work to classes to recreational
activities, the Net Gen is always connected. (Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005, p. 2.5)
Constant connectedness is a given circumstantial reality underpinning learning
environments in a navigationist paradigm. To ‘‘connect’’ and to be/stay connected is part
of the skill to ‘‘navigate’’.
I would therefore prefer to view connectivism as a term to describe a connected learning
environment in which connectivist learning strategies, learning skills and learning activities
are required to learn effectively. Siemens (2004, p. 6) correctly states that: ‘‘Connectivism
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provides insight into learning skills and tasks needed for learners to flourish in the digital
Connectivist learning skills are required to learn successfully within a navigationist learning
paradigm. Connectivism is part and parcel of navigationism, which is the broader concept
comprising more than connectivism, as illustrated in Figure 3.
The following list is a selection of Siemens’ principles of connectivism (Siemens, 2004). It
provides a summary of the connectivist learning skills and principles required within a
navigationist learning paradigm:
Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.
Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning
Decision making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of
incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right
answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate
affecting the decision.
David Passig (2001) explores ICT mediated future thinking skills. His work traces the basic
nature of future society and proposes a relevant taxonomy of future cognitive skills with
appropriate tools to succeed in the future. Passig states that in the knowledge era there is a
need for unique cognitive skills in order to process information successfully in real time. He
continues by saying that those who will have the skills of collecting information in real time, as
well as the ability to analyse, classify, and organize it, will be those to achieve a social,
cultural and economical advantage. (Passig, 2001)
It is important to note his statement that most of the intellectual activity will be to ‘‘amplify the
value of available information’’ (Passig, 2001). The knowledge age acknowledges the fact
that the rate of information overflow will be accelerated, and that the main role of people will
be to add value to the exchange of information (Harkins, 1992 and O’Dell, 1998 in Passig,
Passig (2001) uses Bloom’s taxonomy as a working platform and expands the categories to
reflect the needs of the future. Passig’s work provides very useful suggestions and insight
into the new type of cognitive skills that learners will require in the near future. The following is
a meaningful list of navigating skills that can be drawn from the work of Passig:
To know where to find useful information and to master search strategies.
To develop new symbols, codes and conventions.
Figure 3 The relation between navigationism and connectivism
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To expand existing models of thinking and to create inferences and analogies.
To analyse pieces of information in various ways and to make new connections.
To distinguish relationships between fragments of information and to create new
To evaluate the reliability of information keeping in mind the influence of time, context
and personal interpretation.
To locate a separate element out of the pieces of information that it was taken from in
order to create a new meaning.
To choose the suitable combination of information and implement it in problem
solving in different situations.
To create consonance – an agreement/harmony/accord/personal new logical
connection between two domains that seemed distant from each other.
To create association – the mental notion of connection or relation between thoughts,
feelings, ideas or sensations.
The list of navigating skills and competencies required within a navigationist paradigm that is
provided in the preceding paragraphs, is far from complete. What is provided here should
be regarded merely as examples. Much research is required to refine the definition and
description of a navigationist learning paradigm. The list of skills and competencies should
be further developed and refined.
Paradigm shifts and role changes
Tables II and III provide a concise summary of the past and envisaged educational
paradigm shifts, as well as the past and envisaged role changes of role players within
teaching and learning environments. Tables II and III also provide a key word summary of the
most important issues in the preceding discussions.
Table II Summary of paradigm shifts in education
Paradigm shifts in education
knowledge adoption
behaviourism objectivism
information gathering
knowledge provision
knowledge production
cognitivism constructivism
learning facilitation
information generation
knowledge management
knowledge navigation
navigationism connectivism
coaching and mentoring
information navigation
sense making
Table III Summary of role changes in education
Role changes in education
Knowledge adoption era
Knowledge production era
Role player
Instructional designer
knowledge adoption
design of instruction
reduction of content
knowledge production
learning facilitation
design of learning facilitation
and learning activities
re-/configuration of knowledge
Information specialist
information gathering and
knowledge provision
information configuration
knowledge management
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Knowledge navigation era
knowledge navigation
coaching and mentoring
design of coaching and
navigating activities
configuration of navigation
information facilitation
sense making
What lies beyond constructivism? Perhaps navigationism?
Are we planning for and anticipating the future? Are we ready to take the leap to the next
learning paradigm? Or will the ever growing and demanding knowledge era catch us all off
Institutions should move away from providing content per se to learners. We should focus on
coaching learners to find, identify, manipulate and evaluate information and knowledge, to
integrate this knowledge in their world of work and life, to solve problems and to
communicate this knowledge to others. Learners should be connected and networking in
various ways in the digital age.
Teachers and educators should become the source of how to navigate in the ocean of
available information and knowledge. We should become coaches and mentors within the
knowledge era. Instructional designers should start to design coaching and navigating
activities instead of designing learning facilitation and learning activities; to configure
navigation tools instead of the re-/configuration of content.
May this article stimulate further research to define navigationism and to describe the
navigating skills we require to survive in the knowledge era.
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About the author
Tom H. Brown obtained his PhD in the field of distance learning in 1993 at the University of
Pretoria with the topic: ‘‘The operationalisation of metalearning in distance education’’. His
expertise is in the following fields: learning, learning facilitation, education innovation,
distance learning (ODL), instructional design, educational technology, flexible learning,
e-learning and m-learning. He currently holds the position of Deputy Director at the
University of Pretoria where he is responsible for, amongst other, educational technology,
education innovation and distance education partnerships. Tom is the author of a large
number of publications and the international recognition for his work has culminated in
numerous invited keynote addresses at international conferences as well as many invited
presentations and guest lectures. He is also a visiting expert and guest lecturer in
international postgraduate courses in distance education and invited chair of research
workshops. Tom H. Brown can be contacted at: [email protected]
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